What did the goat say to the chicken?

August 4, 2010 at 9:06 am | Posted in cheese, farming, goats, hens | Leave a comment

The goats are a valuable part of the agricultural system here at Adamah: they provide a good quality fertiliser in the manure and the possibility of creating and selling the value added products made from their milk including feta, chevre and goatgurt (yogurt). In order to produce milk they must have kids annually. Once a year a ‘buck’ is hired from a neighbouring farm and spends a day servicing the female goats. The does then give birth in the spring; they produce milk, nurse their young and begin providing the dairy with a steady source of milk. By the end of June the kids no longer require their mothers’ nutrition. They are ready to be weaned.

We all took the weaning process very seriously, aware that this was a big day for the goats and inevitably projecting human emotions of forced familial separation onto the animals. All the male goats were removed and weighed one by one and placed into the back of the truck. At first it was easy for Aitan, the goatkeeper, to catch them. By the last two they seemed to know what was going on, requiring two people and a rugby tackle to catch the kids. One got away and rushed to his mother for a last goodbye. Once they were all in the truck we all cycled on ahead ready to great them on the other side of the farm in the newly set aside “boystown”. There the kids were unloaded, welcomed ceremoniously by us and ran off together, gracefully, beautifully to explore their new green pasture. The male goats will stay there and grow. In the autumn they will be sold and then slaughtered for meat. The next day the dairy’s milk production more than doubled. The cheese and goatgurd making process really began. For a dairy to be economically viable the male goats must be killed each year.

The next day my fellow British Adamahnik, Poppy, was working in boystown. She counted the goats: there were only 5 of the 13 were there. She quickly cycled back to site and alerted the staff. The goat search began. They were eventually found back beside the swimming pool on the way to find their mothers. Through scent, the sun or just a remarkable sense of direction, they had escaped under the fence, reached the road, walked down Beebe Hill, crossed Johnson Road, entered the retreat centre passed the “Slow down” sign and had found themselves on the lawn. All available hands were called in and everyone rushed to grab and pick up a goat and secure them beside the swimming pool, the nearest enclosed area. One kid managed to escape this and managed to make it all the way back to the barnyard and their mothers. With the reluctance to leave and the desperation to go back to their mothers, it was impossible not to project painful human emotions on to these animals.

For many in the group this was difficult: we were forcing these animals to go against their instinct. Yet most people thought that it was reassuring to be a part of this process at a small-scale farm. We can see that the goats are being treated respectfully and given plenty of green pasture; this would certainly not be the case at industrial farms.

The does will be milked until January and then left for the process to begin again in the spring. Witnessing the weaning process was a great opportunity to think more about what it means to domesticate and breed animals for our purposes and to see the economic necessity of the link between dairy and meat farming.

– Submitted by Daniel Lichman, ADAMAH Summer 2010. Read more about Daniel’s travels here.

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